Home' Technology Review : March April 2007 Contents 80 FICTION
TECHNOLOGY REVIEW /
We nished at dawn, and after cleaning up and
disposing of used lters, I sent the crew home. B and
G waited with me for the freight company to pick up
the seeds and a nal pallet of phones, and then we
went to an IHOP for breakfast.
We were in a celebratory mood; this marked
the completion of our part in the vox-cutter project.
From then on its success was up to strangers. We
wolfed down a breakfast of cakes, eggs, and sausages.
We proposed toasts with orange juice and co ee.
G toasted to Operation Ragweed for Ragheads. B
toasted to M and her kid, wherever they were and
whoever they had become.
When the waitress came over with more co ee,
she said, "I know it s petty of me and wrong, but
I resent happy people like you." She spoke calmly,
re lled our cups, and went away.
We gaped at each other. I stood up to peer over
the booth partitions and saw patrons crying into their
phones. We left immediately. The woman at the reg-
ister told us how sometimes she pilfered from the tip
jar. Her eyes and nose were not in amed, so what-
ever vector was involved in dispersing the TC, it
wasn t our pollen. On the sidewalk outside, a guy on
a mountain bike and a woman with a shopping cart
were trying to unburden themselves to each other. So
it probably wasn t the co ee or restaurant food either.
In fact, all up and down the street we saw penitents
fessing up to one another.
Gcranedhis neckandpeeredintothe sky. "Aerial
spraying?" he said. "An area-wide dragnet?" We
wondered if we were the target. But we didn t stick
around to nd out.
A woman was slumped against the bumper of our
car. She looked at us and said, "Is this all I get?" I
helped her to her feet. "I mean, I know I m ugly. I ve
known that since I was a child, but does it mean my
life has to be so small and empty and meaningless?"
I turned her toward the intersection and told her
to nd a taxi and go home. And if she had a phone,
to use it.
We jumped into the car, G behind the wheel.
"Where to?" he yelled, pulling into tra c.
I told him to drive back to the warehouse. No mat-
ter how the TC was being dispersed, our hazmat gear
there had protected us. My plan was for us to suit up
before evacuating the area. Then my phone rang, a
call from C. I asked him where he was.
He said, "I feel like telling you that 10 years ago
I acquired a complete micro che set of engineering
plans for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline."
"I don t care about that. Where are you?"
"At the warehouse. Listen, I sold the plans for a
shitload of money. You want to know who to?"
I ordered him to destroy his phone and stay put till
someone came for him. Then I hung up and told G to
forget the warehouse and head for the bridge instead.
He made a sharp U-turn and nearly hit an SUV. He
had to brake so hard he stalled the engine. But instead
of restarting it, he just sat there staring out the wind-
shield. In the back seat, B said, "They showed us color
photos of aborted fetuses. They said a baby as old as
mine already had perfect little ngernails."
I ordered her to shut up and Gus to drive, but he
turned around in his seat and said, "I saw my father
kill my mother, and I lied to the police about it."
"I was only ve years old. He made it out to look
like an accident, but he never fooled me."
I ordered them to hand over their cell phones, but
Bella dialed a number, and as it rang she told us, "And
perfect little eyelashes." When her party answered,
she began to weep.
"Stop crying!" I barked at her. But she didn t stop,
and Gus joined her. A sight to behold---Gus Ostermann
pressing the heels of his hands against his temples. "All
the poor dogs!" he cried. "And all the poor cats."
We sat there for a long time, tra c piling up and
passing around us as we talked to the people we
loved. Before army intelligence arrived, I received a
text message from the ACC. A single word, backed
by the authority of the core group---"JUG." Short for
jugulate, which was what they were directing me to
do in order to protect the ACC. I couldn t allow us to
be taken alive, that much was clear. I have swor n an
oath to lay down my life for the group, and I will, only
not right now. Right now I actually feel like answer-
ing a few questions.
My name is William B. Boothtipple. My number is
973-555-0979. If it s busy, leave voice mail or keep try-
ing; no doubt I m on the other line spilling my guts.
And now some shout-outs:
---To Melody and her awesome kid, Kimmie, wher-
ever you are and whoever you ve become. Duane
wasn t the only one you bewitched; I think of you
guys all the time. If I had known how much I d miss
you, I would never have let you go.
---To Osama. Hey, man, seriously, phone home. It s
been years since they ve heard your voice, and every-
one s worried sick.
David Marusek lives in Fairbanks, AK, where he is working
on the sequel to his first novel, Counting Heads. His collection
of stories, Getting to Know You, has just been published by
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